Francisco Lindor still smiling, happy to be a Met
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Even after hearing periodic boos from Mets fans, seemingly obsessing over those boos when playing well, helping lead the thumbs-down episode, suffering a rare injury that cost him more than a month and enduring what was by far the worst season of his career last year, Francisco Lindor has no regrets about committing to the Mets, he said Tuesday.
That is a relevant sentiment considering that that commitment — a decade, during which he is owed $341 million — doesn’t actually begin until next month. He signed his contract on the eve of Opening Day 2021, before he had played in a game for the Mets and before he really knew what he was getting himself into.
"I'm super happy I'm here," Lindor said. "I felt like I had success last year because I learned a lot and to me success is based on how much you learn and the process . . . I'm super happy I'm here. I've still got 10 more years, so you guys will be seeing me. I'm happy. I'm happy. It's a blessing."
Now, Lindor hopes to make Mets fans happy, too. That was not the case last season, when he had career-worsts in average (.230), OBP (.322) and slugging percentage (.412), had a physical altercation with double-play partner Jeff McNeil during a game and had an all-around hard time playing in New York after coming from Cleveland.
But one of Lindor’s first conversations with new manager Buck Showalter, who managed the Yankees for two seasons before Lindor was born, was on the topic of playing under pressure and living up to expectations.
"I’ve told multiple players here, not just him, Mets fans are waiting to embrace you," Showalter said. "It’s our responsibility to give them something."
Lindor added: "The fans, they want some [reason] to embrace you. That’s something I stole from Buck. And it hit home. They want some [reason] to embrace you. The fans want it, they cheer for you. If you don’t give them that, you're going to hear it . . . It was a different way of seeing things."
Perhaps more troubling than short-term fan reception, though, is Lindor’s longer-term production trends.
Since his excellent 2018, when he had a personal-high .871 OPS, that mark has decreased every season, to .854 in ’19, .750 in ’20 and .734 in ’21.
"I can play, man. I can play," he said. "And I don’t think I’ve hit my peak yet."
Despite the statistics, it’s easy enough to rationalize Lindor’s regression. He was still an All-Star and received down-ballot MVP votes in 2019. Then came 2020, the pandemic season, which was short and weird for everyone in lots of ways. And Lindor cited the newness of last year — a new baby, a new team, a new city, a new league — as a reason he was out of his regular routine.
"Life was a little faster for me last year and I just tried to give it my best. I wasn't my best," he said. "The days I was successful, I would go up to the plate and I was under control. I could control everything but the results. The days it was really fast, pitch after pitch was really fast. I was trying to make adjustments and figure everything out and I was in the dugout like, 'Wow, I just finished that at-bat and it felt like I was in the box for one second.'"
His season didn’t feel as bad as it looked, he said.
"I didn't feel like I was slumping. I wasn't hitting obviously, numbers weren't there. But I feel like I was having good days, I was just inconsistent," Lindor said. "I wasn't putting bricks every single day. And to have a wall, you have to put the bricks every single day. I was just putting bricks every other, every two days. And it wasn't what I wanted."